What We Know About LGBT People with Disabilities

Today marks the 29th anniversary of the signing of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), a landmark civil rights law that prohibits discrimination based on disability in nearly every area of life, from work to housing and public accommodations and education. The ADA also ensures that people living with HIV aren’t discriminated against.  

New research shows that LGBT people are more likely to have a disability than the general population.For example, in a survey of more than 26,000 transgender people, 39% reported having a disability.  Andone in three lesbians and one in three bisexual women report having a disability in a population-based survey in Washington.  

As the country reflects on what work remains for the full inclusion of people with disabilities in America, the Movement Advancement Project, in partnership with the Center for American Progress’s Disability Justice Initiative and LGBT Research and Communications Project, the National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR), and the National LGBTQ Task Force, released a short summary of what we know about LGBT people with disabilities.  

U.S. Supreme Court Considers Three Cases That Could Take America Backward

Did you know that there are three huge cases on the U.S. Supreme Court’s docket for this fall about whether LGBT people are worthy of equal opportunity or whether they may be treated as legally inferior citizens?

Did you know that there are three significant cases on the U.S. Supreme Court’s docket for this fall about whether LGBT people are worthy of equal opportunity or whether they may be treated as legally inferior citizens?

The Court will hear oral arguments in October about whether LGBT people will continue to have protections under federal nondiscrimination law, or whether it would be legal under federal law for employers to fire LGBT people just for who they are or whom they love. These cases will impact the ability of LGBT people to provide for themselves and their families.

Today MAP released a new brief, “Can LGBT People Be Legally Fired? U.S. Supreme Court Considers Three Cases That Could Take America Backward” highlighting what’s at stake with these cases.

http://www.lgbtmap.org/scotus-2019-titlevii

Together, the cases have the potential to take America backward. That’s because if the Court rules that LGBT people are not protected by existing federal workplace protections, anti-LGBT opponents will rapidly use the same legal reasoning to work to attempt to overturn critical federal protections in housing, healthcare, credit, education and more. In short, LGBT people could soon find themselves living in a nation where federal law says it is legal for them to be denied a job, fired, discriminated against at school, denied a loan, rejected by a doctor, and evicted from an apartment, simply because they are LGBT.

Now is the time to reiterate the importance of nondiscrimination for LGBT people and all people. That’s why MAP is releasing a new brief today that describes the cases, how the Court could rule, and what the implications of the Court’s rulings could mean for LGBT people not just at work but in all areas of life.


Support LGBT People in Rural America!

As legislative sessions start to wrap up, we’re taking stock of both inspiring progress made and heartbreaking setbacks. While we have been able to defeat anti-equality measures that target vulnerable communities including women, minorities, people of faith, and LGBT people, we also know that 26 states still lack inclusive nondiscrimination protections for LGBT people, and this administration is staunchly committed to eliminating protections at the federal level.

For LGBT people in rural areas, the lack of protections can be devastating.

To shine a spotlight on this unique impact, MAP, in partnership with the Equality Federation, the National Black Justice Coalition and the National Center for Lesbian Rights released Where We Call Home: LGBT People in Rural America, which examines the structural differences in rural life and their impact on LGBT people in rural areas. LGBT people in rural communities are both more vulnerable to discrimination and less able to respond to its harmful effects.

MAP also released several supplemental resources to help advocates and allies take action, including a recommendation series for policymakers, healthcare providers, educators, employers and more.

And to increase the on-the-ground support for LGBT people in rural communities, we’ve created a new community resource flyer designed to be printed and posted in public places for rural LGBT people and allies to access. The community flyer provides a space for local service providers to fill in local, LGBT-supportive resources, as well as online and telephone supports. The flyer links to this page on our website www.lgbtmap.org/rural-lgbt-resources.

Now is your turn to take action. How can you help support LGBT people in rural America?

  • Share these resources on social media using #RuralLGBT.
  • Print, fill-out and hang the flyer on community resources boards where LGBT people can access it in your rural town or region.
  • Share the flier and the recommendations with organizations or groups that could help get the flyer into the hands of rural communities to print and display.
  • Donate to support MAP’s work to advance equality for LGBT wherever they live. www.lgbtmap.org/donate

May Is Older Adults Month

Older adults play an important role in our society, and enhance the vitality and richness of our families, neighborhoods, social networks, and lives. That’s why, every May, the Administration for Community Living leads a national observance of Older Americans Month. This year’s theme: Connect, Create, Contribute.

Although largely invisible until very recently, LGBTQ older adults make up a significant—and growing—share of both the overall LGBTQ population and the larger 65+ population. MAP recognizes that by engaging and supporting all community members we build a stronger society. We also recognize there are challenges for older Americans, especially those in the LGBTQ community, who face unique issues stemming from stigma, isolation, and discrimination. While confronted with the same challenges that face all people as they age, LGBTQ elders also face an array of unique barriers and inequalities that can stand in the way of a healthy and rewarding later life. Two MAP videos highlight just a few of the many challenges older LGBTQ adults face:

Our Nursing Home ad, released in partnership with SAGE and the Open to All coalition, illustrates the devastating harms many LGBTQ Americans face because of discrimination. The video features an older gay man and his family on the first day he moves into an assisted living facility. When the director of the facility learns the man is gay, he refuses to allow him to move in.

Our video, Understanding Issues Facing LGBT Older Adults, which was created to supplement the report of the same name, follows Jackie and Tina, two women born in the same town during the same year, and whose lives take very different turns and takes a look at their unique needs and experiences.

Older Americans Month is an important reminder to celebrate all of the members of our community. Please join MAP as we join in the discussion and share suggestions, resources, and materials that provide valuable insights and data into the lives of LGBTQ older adults.

ADDITIONAL RESOURCES
The following sharable resources offer an overview into the lives of LGBTQ older adults.

SCOTUS to Decide if LGBT Workers Are Protected: What’s At Stake?

Today the U.S. Supreme Court announced it will hear three cases related to protections for LGBT people under federal law. The cases are Altitude Express Inc. v. Zarda, Bostock v. Clayton County, Georgiaand R.G. & G.R. Harris Funeral Homes v. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. The first two cases relate to whether federal employment law’s prohibition on sex-based discrimination also prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation, while the last case examines whether the law prohibits discrimination based on gender identity. It is surprising for many people to learn that there is currently a confusing patchwork of legal protections for LGBT people.  While many federal courts and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) already recognize that discrimination against LGBTQ people involves forms of unlawful sex discrimination, these protections are under attack. Are LGBT Workers Protected from Discrimination? Unravelling the Patchwork of Federal, State, and Local Employment Protections, a resource from MAP, the ACLU, and Lambda Legal helps to make sense of the current situation.

The U.S. Supreme Court taking these cases is important for a few reasons.

First, LGBT people lack explicit protections under federal law and have relied on explicit state-level protections, explicit county or city-level protections, and the ability to file a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) to seek recourse when they are treated unfairly on the job.

Second, a growing number of district and circuit level federal courts have ruled that when someone is fired for being transgender, that firing is inherently based on sex stereotypes about what it means to be a man or a woman, and is thus illegal under existing federal law. Similarly, multiple courts have ruled that if a person is fired for their sexual orientation, that is also discrimination based on sex. For example, if a woman is fired for being married to another woman, that discrimination is based on her sex: if she were a man, being married to a woman would not lead to being fired. Yet, the employers in these cases say that it should be perfectly lawful to fire someone just because they are lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender.
The U.S. Supreme Court likely took these cases because of the “split circuits” on this issue as seen in these maps.

No one should be fired just because of who they are.

Finally, clarity from the U.S. Supreme Court could have an incredible impact on the lives of LGBT people.  One in four LGBT people report experiencing discrimination in the past year. If the Supreme Court were to affirm that discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity is illegal under federal law, that would mean that LGBT people nationwide would be protected by our nation’s civil rights legislation in the areas of employment, housing, education, and more. No longer would LGBT people’s access to basic equal protections depend on their state of residence. If the Court were to rule that federal law does not explicitly apply to sexual orientation and gender identity, it would bolster the case for the Equality Act and other state legislation that would explicitly prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

These cases will be argued before the court in fall of 2019.

For more about these cases and what’s a stake, read this brief authored by MAP, the ACLU, and Lambda Legal.

What’s Best for Kids in Tennessee?

There are more than 443,000 children in the foster care system across the country and about 1,300 of those children live in Tennessee. For some of these children, foster homes are needed until they can return to their families. For others, adoption is the long-term goal.  And yet, there is a constant shortage of qualified families who step forward to welcome a foster or adoptive child in their homes.

Yet, lawmakers in Tennessee are currently considering legislation that would overlook the best interest of these children and instead allow state-contracted agencies to discriminate in choosing which families for placement. This legislation would harm the most vulnerable children in the state by limiting the families who could provide loving homes to them, simply because of who they are. Check out the Tennessee Equality Project for more information and ways to take action.

An ad, re-released and updated for 2019, from MAP, the Child Welfare League of America (CWLA), and the National Association of Social Workers (NASW), entitled “Kids Pay the Price,” vividly depicts the kinds of harms children can face when agencies and workers are allowed to prioritize their individual beliefs over the best interests of children. In the ad, a social worker is depicted saying she would rather keep a child in foster care than allow her to be adopted by a qualified gay or lesbian couple; a child placement worker says that her agency has strict beliefs, and if parents are Jewish, she shouldn’t have to place kids in those homes; and a placement worker says he shouldn’t have to place children in homes that don’t share his belief in “spare the rod, spoil the child.”

Tennessee isn’t alone in considering this type of action. Recent events have reached a crisis point, with an increasing number of states and even the federal government permitting taxpayer-funded discrimination at the expense of vulnerable children who need safe and loving homes.

Most recently:

  • In January, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services granted an exemption to the state of South Carolina to allow it to contract with agencies that refuse to consider families who do not meet a religious litmus test set by the agency. This waiver was precipitated by an agency that had turned away Jewish and Catholic perspective parents because they didn’t meet the agency’s Evangelical Christian standard.
  • Last year, three states passed legislation allowing agencies to discriminate.
  • A line item in the 2020 budget proposed by the Trump Administration and the Department of Health and Human Services states that the agency will allow child welfare programs to discriminate based on religious beliefs, following the issuance of the waiver to South Carolina’s Miracle Hill Ministries.

There is good news, however. Last month, the State of Michigan, in response to a lawsuit brought by the ACLU on behalf of a lesbian couple turned away by state-contracted agencies, agreed to enforce nondiscrimination provisions in state child welfare contracts and to not permit discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity, religion, race, and other characteristics. This brings the number of states that permit taxpayer-funded discrimination to eight (though two more states, Michigan and Alabama, permit discrimination by agencies that do not receive state contracts).

As Christine James-Brown, CEO and President of CWLA, explains at the end of the ad, “We have laws governing child services agencies for a reason,” James-Brown says in the ad. “When states allow adoption decisions to be based on a worker’s individual beliefs, rather than the best interests of children, it’s children who pay the price.”

 

Voices of Rural LGBT America: A Queer Latina Living in Rural Michigan

Stefani has lived in rural areas in both Michigan’s Lower Peninsula and the heavily-rural Upper Peninsula. From a young age, Stefani struggled with physical symptoms that doctors struggled to diagnose. In her rural town outside of Traverse City, the physicians she went to in search of support dismissed these symptoms as related to her weight or potential anxiety.

“When the doctors are uncomfortable with your body and who you are, they speak from that place of discomfort rather than medical knowledge,” she said.

In light of such invalidating and ineffective medical care, Stefani coped with her symptoms for years until moving to the Upper Peninsula for college. When she sought medical help again, the student center doctors believed her, but referred her to specialists outside the university system. Stefani recalls, “the specialists couldn’t get over the fact that I was queer, let alone fat, let alone Latina. All of which prevented them from seeing me as a serious patient with serious symptoms.” Again, the doctors attributed her symptoms to her weight, or dismissed them as anxiety attacks. One doctor even told her, “women have these attacks.”

Eventually, Stefani’s mom, who had extensive experience navigating the medical system after working as a medical interpreter for migrant workers, drove over eight hours to go with her daughter to the doctor.

“Just having her as a validator of my experiences was so important. If I wouldn’t have had that back up, I don’t think I ever would’ve gotten my diagnosis. But I had the privilege of her experiences, and her ability to make that trip for me. I really believe I would’ve had a different experience in a non-rural environment because I could’ve gone to a different doctor who believed me. …It’s just like any rural place: we don’t have enough access to health care outside of the big cities.”

Even in the largest city in the region, Stefani points out, “there are extremely few specialists, so you’re stuck with them unless you can afford to travel. And, even when you find an accepting doctor, they may have never knowingly treated an LGBT patient. So, you end up having to educate your own doctor about how they need to treat you.”

While Stefani’s experiences in rural settings include these stories of discrimination and poor treatment, she says she ultimately loves living in rural Michigan. LGBT people living in rural communities have many positive experiences and reasons for living where they live–whether because it’s where they grew up or their families live; because they seek a closer connection to nature; or because they moved there for a job opportunity. Stefani moved to the Upper Peninsula for college and chose to stay there because she loved it.

“What I like definitely outweighs the negative experiences that I’ve had. This is my ninth year here and I wouldn’t still be living in a rural environment if it didn’t call to me. My parents live in Detroit and I could easily move there if I wanted. My work as an activist is most needed in this place. I can find really enriching opportunities to help people who don’t have access to any formalized resources. The rural LGBT community that gets built is so strong and so resilient and really willing to come together and be supportive in ways I haven’t found as much in big cities. Here, they really show up for you.”

Where We Call Home: LGBT People in Rural America, the latest report from MAP, released in partnership with the Equality Federation, the National Black Justice Coalition, and the National Center for Lesbian Rights, seeks to raise the visibility of LGBT people living in rural America. And while the report documents key challenges facing LGBT people, including lack of vital legal protections and meaningful political representation, it also showcases the joys and rewards of living in rural America for LGBT people and their families.

Voices of Rural LGBT America: One Dad’s Story of Looking for Work in Montana

Last week, MAP published a comprehensive look at the lives of LGBT people living in rural America. Released in partnership with the Equality Federation, the National Black Justice Coalition, and the National Center for Lesbian Rights, Where We Call Home: LGBT People in Rural America highlights both the joys and challenges of rural LGBT people in many areas of life.

Integral to understanding – and then advocating for – the lives of rural LGBT people is hearing their stories.

Bert lives with his husband, Dan, in Miles City, Montana, a town with a population of 8,483. Bert’s story highlights the extent to which employment options can be limited, particularly for LGBT people, in rural communities because of discrimination and the lack of employment protections.

After losing his job close to home, Bert applied to a job 70 miles away at St. Labre Indian School, a private Catholic high school serving children from neighboring Northern Cheyenne and Crow reservations. As both a Catholic and a Blackfeet Native American, Bert felt this was a natural fit, and that he and Dan would figure out a way to make the long commute work. He excitedly accepted the well-paying job when the school offered it to him.

But when Bert looked for housing at the school, in case bad weather ever meant he needed to stay nearby rather than make the long drive home to his family, he mentioned his husband and children to the St. Labre employee showing him available housing. A few days later, Bert received a call from the school’s administrator, asking him to come speak with the entire school board.

“Are you a practicing homosexual?” the board asked Bert. “Why didn’t you mention this when we asked in your interview if you lived by Catholic values?” they asked. Bert explains what happened next: “I live my life by the morals and values I was taught in Catholic school, so of course I answered truthfully that I live by Catholic values. I didn’t think this was a problem.” The school rescinded the job offer, leaving Bert without a job to provide for his family.  Eventually he found another job, but for considerably less pay than what St. Labre had offered.

LGBT people in rural areas shouldn’t have to choose between living in communities where they have supportive family and friends and deep roots, and providing for themselves and their families.

Yet, because the United States lacks comprehensive, explicit federal protections for LGBT people at work, and because rural states are far less likely to have LGBT-inclusive nondiscrimination laws in employment, housing, public accommodations and more, this is a choice that many LGBT people are forced to make, particularly because there may be fewer job opportunities and they may have to travel a farther distance to find work.

Ensuring that all people can live and thrive in the communities big and small requires action by lawmakers and advocacy and support on the part of businesses, communities, and allies. Learn more about LGBT people’s experiences in rural America in this new report from MAP and what can be done to advance equality across the country.

NEW REPORT: Where We Call Home: LGBT People in Rural America

Popular culture images of LGBT people suggest that most LGBT people live in cities or on the coasts. Yet 2.9 – 3.8 million LGBT people call rural America home.

Today, the Movement Advancement Project released a new report, Where We Call Home: LGBT People in Rural America, which examines the structural differences in rural life and their unique impact on LGBT people in rural areas, who are both more vulnerable to discrimination and less able to respond to its harmful effects. Among other challenges, rural LGBT people are less likely to have explicit nondiscrimination protections, are more likely to live in areas with religious exemption laws that may allow service providers to discriminate, and have fewer alternatives when facing discrimination, as detailed in a new report released today.

Click here to read the exclusive USA Today article about the report.

Although LGBT people in rural areas face many of the same challenges as their neighbors, they experience different consequences, and the many structural challenges of living in rural communities can often amplify LGBT people’s experiences of both acceptance and rejection. The report findings include that:

  • The interconnectedness of rural communities leads to ripple effectsacross many aspects of life. For example, if a person is excluded from their faith community for being gay, they may have a difficult time at work or finding a job, because their church members may also be their coworkers or potential employers. Conversely, if a rural church community or employer takes a supportive stand for local LGBT residents, that support can also ripple outward to other areas of life.
  • When LGBT people (and particularly LGBT people of color) in rural areas do face discrimination, they may have no or fewer alternatives to find a restaurant, doctor, job, home, faith community, and more. And, more service providers in rural areas are religiously-affiliated and are covered under religious exemption laws that may allow them to discriminate, even when providing public services.
  • LGBT people in rural areas are more vulnerable to discrimination. Rural areas are more likely to lack explicit nondiscrimination protections for LGBT people and more likely to have laws allowing religious service providers to turn LGBT people away.

Click here to view infographics pulled from Where We Call Home: LGBT People in Rural America

LGBT people live in rural areas for the same reasons as other people, such as love of family, the strength of tight-knit rural communities, and connection to the land. However, the social and political landscape of rural America means that rural LGBT people are more vulnerable to discrimination. This is why nondiscrimination laws are vital, so that rural LGBT people don’t have to choose between basic protections and the place they call home.

The report is released in partnership with the Equality Federation, the National Black Justice Coalition, and the National Center for Lesbian Rights.

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